Macbeth (film)

I seem to be do nothing but going to the cinema. My blog has turned into a film critics ramble!

I had heard that the recent film version of Macbeth was really worth watching, and I need to write a play review as Tom Burke was in a stage version of it too, so I thought, hang fire on the play review, watch the film, and then do the two reviews one after the other!

Now I love the play of Macbeth, and having watched the film, I'm not sure if that has been a hindrance or not. I'm not sure whether turning Shakepeare's plays into films for the big screen always works.

The first change to the script is that we are not introduced to the story by the Weird Sisters incantations, instead we see two distraught parents standing over a pyre containing the lifeless form of a small child, and then the pyre is set alight. From the beginning  we know this is going to be a very bloody film, nothing like the stage play we are used to, and this is the thing, because it is a film dramatic visuals are going to be of paramount importance.

War is bloody, and during the period that this film is set, I am aware of Scottish bloodbaths and the horrors of war, indeed Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most brutal plays, however, this film seemed to revel in the almost macabre telling of the tale with endless slow motion close ups of throats being cut. This distracted from the actual telling of the story, as these battles take a long amount of cinema time, and therefore the poetry of character build up in the play gets lost,

The beauty of Shakespeare's work is that we are told the story of a man who has aspirations, and he will do whatever is required for him to achieve his desires. That said, once he has achieved his main ambition, his conscience starts to get the better of him and drives him into insanity.

For anyone who does not know the plot of Macbeth, his ambition is to be King. His wife Lady Macbeth convinces him that killing King Duncan is the right thing to do, and they plan that when the King is asleep, Macbeth will kill the King so that he will take the crown.

This is a strange film in that some parts of it are so slow paced and rather laboured, that the lady next to me actually fell asleep,  but in other areas, important parts of the play were rushed through and not given much thought, especially in the change of character. Macbeth's descent into madness is so quick, and it is hard to decipher if what he keeps seeing is real or just an apparition. Many of the important speeches have been removed, and the story tinkered with, so that we end up with a very basic storyline. Macbeth, once becoming King descends very quickly into madness, but he also quickly rejects his position, giving up on his throne and living via the words of the Weird Sisters, rather than trying to prove them wrong.

I think to enjoy the film you need to leave your perception of the play at home, and just enjoy the film for what it is. Cinematically it is filmed beautifully, there is a constant use of black and red visuals which create a feeling of drama and horror and this feeling that Macbeth is something more than a man, that he is this mythical creature who will win at everything. It is brutal on the senses as we see the atrocity of war, slowly staged on cold, misty, brooding moors, and the slow, agonised death of King Duncan as a dagger is plunged again and again into his squirming body. But, I left the cinema feeling cheated. I felt like I had sat through a long story, where the narrator had described the setting beautifully, but then omitted to put in any coherent dialogue!